Duck trousers, straw bonnets, and bluey: the history of Tasmanian textiles and clothing is filled with colourful and unique garments, characters, and stories. Stories like that of Joseph Bidencope, a skilful tailor and milliner from Poland, whose popular hats made in Battery Point were exhibited to great success at the Philadelphia International Exhibition in 1876. Or the many stories of the female convicts housed in the factories at Cascades and Ross – some of whom were imprisoned for stealing aprons, bonnets, and jackets – who made, embroidered, and laundered clothing.
These stories- and many more- are at the heart of a new free exhibition Duck Trousers, straw bonnets, and Bluey: Stories of Fabrics and Clothing in Tasmania currently on display in the State Library of Tasmania and Tasmanian Archives Reading Room in Hobart. The exhibition has original records and heritage books from the Tasmanian Archive and State Library collection on display, along with information and images in our new exhibition space.
Kunanyi/ Mount Wellington is an integral part of the Hobart landscape. For the Muwinina people it is a place of cultural and spiritual significance, and a place of creation. Since the European settlement of Lutruwita/ Tasmania, the mountain has commonly appeared in visual and written descriptions of Hobart, providing a sweeping backdrop that frames the small town nestled along the river below. However, Kunanyi/ Mount Wellington is more than simply an iconic background; it has long been a source of resources for the town itself, including ice, timber and mining, amongst other things. Moreover, the mountain has long been regarded as a place of recreation and leisure, with picnics at the Springs and walks to its many waterfalls amongst its most popular activities. In 1935, Jack Thwaites (1902-1986) – a renowned Tasmanian photographer and conservationist- provided a wonderful description of Kunanyi/ Mount Wellington watching over Hobart, and alludes to the many ways in which the mountain draws people in…
It has been stated in Melbourne newspapers that there is a probability of the world-famous English firm of Cadbury’s cocoa and chocolate manufacturers establishing a factory in Melbourne or Sydney to supply Australian requirements. It is understood, however, that there is an equally good chance, if not a better one, because of climatic and other advantages, of the factory being established in Tasmania. … It is understood that the location of the factory will be decided upon very shortly. Should Tasmania be favoured, the State will be given a great lift up.
In January 1920, a group of executives from the English firms of Cadbury’s and Fry’s visited Tasmania to examine a possible site for a new factory. The group had already visited several other potential sites in Australia, including along the Paramatta River in Sydney, and the western suburbs of Melbourne (Freestone, Model Communities, p.151). The executives were, however, won over by the cool climate and beautiful scenery of Tasmania that they found to embody the Quaker values of the company. The site that was chosen was unique: a 100-hectare peninsula that extended out into the River Derwent at Claremont in the northern suburbs of Hobart. The site met all practical requirements for production too: the surrounding suburbs offered a ready workforce, and there was strong state government support, excellent infrastructure including an international shipping port, and a good power supply thanks to the Hydro.
every available tree of this type has been taken over in Gt Britain for War Purposes, the chief item being aircraft construction, the timber being the best substitute for spruce, which is all tied up now in countries occupied by the enemy … The other uses for this willow is artificial limbs for which no other timber is suitable, and recently has [been found to have] the quickest, and most powerful detonation as a component in high explosive fuses for shells … So you can see that none of the tree is not of high commercial value.
From staggering feats of engineering and the enabling of complex mining operations, to employment for men and women and family social outings, for 150 years railways have played an important role in the economic and social history of Tasmania. The story of the Tasmanian Railways is one of great successes, but also of hardships, economic failures, and disasters. It is a colourful and dynamic history.
In this series of blogs, we highlight a couple of colourful figures and incidents in the history of Tasmanian railways to highlight the human and social side of the railways. Railways provided livelihoods for a range of different people, not just those who were employed as drivers or engineers, but for the community at large. We will focus on the social life that popped up around the railways, the hubs of activities and social life that developed in Tasmania around or directly because of the railway.
In concert with these blogs we are celebrating the occasion with an exhibition of railway records and memorabilia in our State Library Reading Room, which will then travel to libraries around the state.
We have also released a new and expansive Tasmanian Railway Guide to our railway records, which should greatly assist researchers who want to delve into those intricate technical drawings, expansive line plans and registers of rolling stock.
On the 1st March 1874, a large and rowdy mob marched through the streets of Longford, Northern Tasmania, making a great racket by shouting and banging on instruments made of ‘kerosene tins and marrow-bones.’ The mob stopped in front of the Prince of Wales Hotel, yelling at the landlord Mr Bryant and threatening to smash his windows with stones. The mob was angry because bailiffs were staying at the hotel, and they did not believe that these bailiffs deserved such comforts. Mr Bryant eventually managed to subdue them, but the mob instead turned their attention to the nearby windows of the sub-collector of the railway rate, William Mason, where they ‘fired a salute at the back windows … and demolished about a dozen squares of glass.’ Still unsatisfied, the mob moved next door to Dr Appleyard’s house, and launched missiles ‘as large as hen’s eggs’ smashing windows and some woodwork. The angry mob then disappeared, it is reported, ‘as if by magic’.